amazing

It had been a long while since I had gone to the woods by myself so I practically ran.

I spent so much time over the holidays inside malls, inside the house, inside the car, doing, doing, doing.  It was time to just “be”.

I took all of these photos on Friday.

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First stop was the chicken coop where I found some eggs.  Walter begged and begged to go on the walk with me but I said “no” right away because I knew (from what Grace had told me) that all he would do is feel lost and scared and meow a lot.  Therefore,  I put the eggs and the cat in the house.

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I’m so thankful to live close to running water.  In fact, I was outside again yesterday in the cold sun, laying back on the frozen ground with my eyes shut, listening to the sound of it.

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The tree I hugged.

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self-portrait

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funny icicles hanging down from a fallen pine tree

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Looks like snow or styrafoam, but it’s really some kind of fungus.

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more pretty pretty fungus on a fallen tree

The sunshine was really lovely to see on this walk, after several gloomy days.

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I am an admirer of ice.

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In fact, I ate a bite of it.  It tasted good, like pine, but later on when I gave some to Sarah she spit it out and said it “tasted like the stench of the forest.”

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As I made my way around to the stream again (the same stream from near our house, only deeper in the woods)  I found that it had flooded the day before, well beyond its banks.  Then, it froze overnight and the next morning when the water started to recede, it left its coat of ice spreading across the ground.

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I stood up on a bank to take this photo, looking down across the ice.  I closed my eyes and could hear it falling and cracking.  It almost sounded like someone else walking throught it in the distance, but I was alone.

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I got as close as I could to the water and sat on a frozen moss covered boulder for a while.

(A good thinking spot.)

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I didn’t see any birds but the closer I got to the field the more I could hear them.

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The trees had sheets of ice hanging off their lower branches.  Sometimes a wind would blow gently through and shake the ice enough to make a sound like soothing wind chimes.

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It was all such a delight and my face was pleasantly cold.  It felt good to BREATHE.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say over and over again.  Everytime I go outside for a walk I get surprised (and smile a lot) over something in God’s big beautiful world.  Which is why I always take my camera along.

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My heart, mind, and soul go back home refreshed.

“If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.”

~Mary Oliver

 

 

 

..the dark sacred night..

dsc_0188I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world  

Good morning, it’s -5 outside, ice coating everything, sunshine lighting up the trees so they look all-over silver.  The most beautiful world outside, do the little wild animals in the woods enjoy it, too?

My heart is overflowing with joy.

I stayed up last night taking photos of the moon.  This morning I woke up to the children being so charming; Sarah already outside with her hair yellow and glowing down her back, Caleb and Seth laughing and fooling around together downstairs, David trying to make a fire using foil and batteries (“it only made smoke”).  Sports Center blaring on the TV, cats eager to be fed, and a movie playing on the small TV in the addition with no one around to watch it.

Good morning texts on the phone from my beloved sister and brother.  Today is Weston’s birthday, I can’t believe my little nephew is eleven today.

I couldn’t wait to look at my moon photos.

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Dear Joanna watched it with me, way way faraway in Pennslyvania.  My family all fell asleep.

The magical moon.

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It was so cold that I went out the front door, said hello, took a few photos, and then went back inside to warm up for another 10 minutes or so.

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I didn’t bother with a tripod.  I just tried my best to get the settings on my camera correct and then *didn’t fiddle around* simply because it was too cold and I had no mittens on my hands.

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It really does look as if it’s hanging in the sky.

 

I have needs and hopes and wishes and wants and complaints.  But last night when I was standing under an inky black sky, under a beautiful moon, in my slippers on top of a cold hard snow and my nose was freezing and my hands were freezing, and I was wearing a coat and a robe and a hoodie, I thought to myself………..

God is 1,000,000,000 bigger than any of my petty problems.

Vast, immeasurable, mighty, and……. and amazingly…….He loves & cares for you and me!

 

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us–none can compare to You–if I would proclaim and declare of them, they are more than could be numbered.  Psalm 40:5

stunning sunrise & sledding

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For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.  I Timothy 4:10

I didn’t want to get out of bed Sunday morning.  Seth had been awake in the night all upset with a fever and I was still tired.  But I could hear the kids in the living room and got up to make sure Seth was okay.  I glanced out the window as I always do, just to take a look at the weather, and was astounded by the most beautiful sky, coupled with dark trees and the whiteness of our first “sticking snow” of the season.

Seth was on the couch and hadn’t slept all night (he said).  When Rich got up he too wasn’t feeling well.  The family stayed home from church, we snuggled on the couch all day in soft blankets.

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Sarah and Caleb were feeling fine and went outside over and over again, they came inside just get get warmed up enough to go back out.

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I was saving these new saucer sleds for the first sledding day.

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chickadee on the feeder

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Our house sits on a hill so the children do not have far to go for good sledding.  They just have to watch out for the pond and pine trees.

They very much enjoyed working on several different tracts, some with ramps and some with twisty turns.

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In the afternoon the snow started falling off the branches, sparkling with the sun.

I spent most of the day with Seth snuggled nearby, so it was good to go on the porch now and then to breath in some fresh air and watch the children sled.

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falling snow

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It was a most cozy day.

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I even made homemade pizza.

This morning, Seth was better.  He went to school.  I went to school, too.  Sarah had a chorus program at 9.   I sat next to another lady who had come to watch her granddaughter and was disappointed that the program was only 15 minutes long.  She had come from a few towns over.  All that effort for 15 minutes.  It’s worth it, though, right?  I then went to the grocery store, came home, put everything away, got laundry going, tidied up the kitchen.  I’ll be leaving soon to pick up David for a doctor’s appointment.

He rules the earth with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of His love.

These words are running through my heart this morning, from the hymn “Joy to the World”.   I am so thankful for Jesus.  How astounding that He rules with truth and grace….especially when you see all through history the ways humanity has ruled.  How beautiful and rare are the good, kind, and loving rulers who reflect His ways.  

For Jesus Himself rules with perfect love. . .wonderous love and glorious righteousness.  

a meal the entire family likes

This morning before school Sarah read me her reading assignment.  It was a book by Gail Gibbons about the sun.

It became an unexpected sacred morning moment; a small girl tucked up beside me reading in her sweet voice.

“The sun gives all living things energy and strength in order to grow.”

Ah yes, thank you Jesus, the Light of the world and only Son of God.

“Without the sun, there would be only darkness and nothing could live.”

…..he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

What a dark and deathly world it would be without His presence.

All of humanity benefits from his warm and life-giving light.

I see Him everywhere, I know you do, too.  There is no need to force a religion (laws and rule keeping) when you truly believe and love Christ.  He opens your eyes to see Him, He puts a longing (hunger and thirst) inside of you to know His beauty, and the whole of life blossoms and flourishes because of the relationship you share with Him.

Since Sarah read me her book, an old hymn has been keeping me company for the morning; written by Philip Bliss, the author of many of our favorite hymns:

The Light of the World is Jesus

The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in;
The Light of the world is Jesus!

Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The Light of the world is Jesus!

No darkness have we who in Jesus abide;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
We walk in the light when we follow our Guide!
The Light of the world is Jesus!

No need of the sunlight in Heaven we’re told;
The Light of the world is Jesus!
The Lamb is the Light in the city of gold,
The Light of the world is Jesus!

*******

After getting Sarah on the bus, I went for a short ramble all by myself in the snow.  I was still wearing my pajamas but it wasn’t too cold thanks to a sweatshirt, a sweater, and shawl.

Orange fungus growing on a dead tree;

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I noticed snow covered cobweb wisps everywhere on the trees (why?)…….

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reflection of the stream;

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texture of slushy icy water;

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black and white;

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There is something magical about being outside in the woods while it’s snowing.

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Inside the chicken coop;

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I was thrilled to find a half dozen eggs!!  (the hens haven’t been laying for over a month)

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I rewarded them with a bowl of snow.

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Which they appreciated very much.

******

And now for a recipe.

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This recipe is “blog worthy” because the whole family loves it.  It’s different; there is no milk or cheese in the sauce, the mayonnaise gives it a richness.

Scalloped Potatoes and Onions

5 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup chopped onion
6 T. butter
1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease a baking dish.
Layer potatoes and onion in prepared baking dish.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour until smooth.  Gradually add broth, mayonnaise, salt, pepper; cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes.  Pour mayonnaise mixture over potatoes and onion.  Cover baking dish with aluminum foil.
Bake in preheated oven until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes more.  Cool slightly; serve.

(I double this for my family)

Also, the original recipe doesn’t call for ham, but I do add it whenever I have leftovers to use up.  Enjoy.

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The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy.
Henry Ward Beecher

candy cane cookies

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1 cup butter

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1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

cream in mixer

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add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla

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1 teaspoon peppermint extract

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cream all together

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then add 2 1/2 cups flour

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half a teaspoon salt and mix well.

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divide dough in half; mix red food coloring into half the dough

chill until firm enough to handle

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now comes the fun part: playing with the dough

make two ropes with each color dough, twist together into a cane.

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bake each tray at 375, 8-10 minutes

enjoy!

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PS, Dave, I was texting you the whole time I did this blog post.
xo

a preview of the winter to come

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There was a chill in the air that could only mean one thing……snow.  Here, the green grass of yesterday has been drifted over with a covering of wet snow.

After reading by the fire for an hour, with a cat on my lap, even though I was determined not to get cold again, I found myself bending down to get my boots out of the closet.  Warm vest, warm down coat, and a camera.  Alone because the boys wanted to go outside later when there is enough snow on the hill to go sledding.

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Wood is stacked on the side porch, ready to be used in the fireplace.  I pick up sticks from the woods when I go for walks, to use as kindling.  The fire is such a mesmerizing thing, with wisps of smoke, cracking, popping, in high notes and low notes.

On a snowy day it is rather cozy-like.

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Turtles and frogs are hiding under the mud in the ponds, not to be seen again until spring.

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Wild berries as red as anything will soon be gone……as the birds slowly pick them to eat.

The bees, grasshoppers, dragonflies, butterflies, moths, and bugs are all gone.  The earth is quiet as it snows.  Although if you stand still and listen you can hear the falling of it.

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Sarah planted marigold seeds in a paper cup during Kindergarten and we transplanted them into the spring garden.  All summer long it was a gift to watch them grow.

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I celebrate the last of the blossoms from the garden, what resilient ones these are to survive frosts and snow.

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fall turning into winter

green turning into brown

warm turning into cold

“To everything — a season,
and a time to every delight
under the heavens”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

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To expect unchanging happiness in a changing world, must end in disappointment. To bring ourselves to our state in life, is our duty and wisdom in this world. God’s whole plan for the government of the world will be found altogether wise, just, and good. Then let us seize the favourable opportunity for every good purpose and work. The time to die is fast approaching. Thus labour and sorrow fill the world. This is given us, that we may always have something to do; none were sent into the world to be idle.  Matthew Henry

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when the snow flies

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Rich wanted to take us to Pinkberry at the mall on Monday evening (the kids had no school again on Tuesday so we could stay out late).  Sarah and I didn’t want anything from Pinkberry (she said it was *too cold*, and I had already had ice cream at home-twice).

A few weeks previously, I had unfortunately and unwisely mentioned to Sarah as I zipped up her too-small winter coat from last year, that I was going to get her a new one.  I say that was unwise of me because she promptly held on to that information and never let go, bringing it up in conversation as much as possible.

Since we were at the mall and didn’t want Pinkberry, we decided to search for the winter coat.

It had to be just right.

The first one she tried on had way too many buttons.  I almost lost my sanity just buttoning it up for the photo.  It was very well made and pretty, though.  (Jessica Simpson girls Peacoat, at Lord and Taylor).

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I don’t remember who made this one but it was a definite “no”, although the zipper was nice.

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I loved this one from Gymboree, but Sarah immediately deemed it “too hot”.  She could not wait to take it off, which is quite the opposite of what we were looking for in winter wear.

It was a very nice coat, though.  Perfect, really.  Unless you have a child who easily gets too hot.

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Then we tried a black jacket in a short length- also from Gymboree.  I liked it but she did not.  Then I got to thinking about the whiteness of the fur collar….and how annoying it would be to watch it get dingier and dingier as the year went on.  It was short, but a little too short.

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A very lovely coat at Norstrom’s made by The North Face….the lining was super soft and it was reversible.  Too hot though.  I probably would have gone back to get this one if we hadn’t found The One later on in the shopping trip.

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She tried on this super cute mini boden shirt.

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She hugged this headless mannequin several times.  They had an instant connection.

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She tried on a vest…I loved it…so soft….she said it looked like a sheep…the lining was gorgeous!  However, it was not a coat.

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This was my personal favorite, as Rich said later, “it looks like you, Shan”.  This is the coat I would have bought if I were shopping for myself and not a six year old.  From JCrew.

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Hanna Andersson.  I LOVE their clothes, the quality is so good and their things are adorable.  It’s the kind of shop in which I want to buy everything in sight.  I fell in love with this coat instantly.  I’m not sure why she was sad in the photo.

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Same coat in peach…and adorable mittens.  Sarah got more thrills from accessories than the main purchase.  In fact, she walked out of this store with *a purse and gloves* AND a coat.

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We were done and went to go find Rich and the others.  As we waited for Grace and her friend to show up, Rich was telling me a story.  I’m not sure what he was saying but I thought he was super handsome so took a photo….making him stop and ask “What are you doing?” in mid-conversation.

Seth was doing wrestling moves in his chair next to his Dad.  At one point his shoe went flying.

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So what coat did we chose?  I took a little portrait of Sarah with my good camera yesterday, but first…some nature photos.  What a gorgeous fall day it was, and as I went down to the chicken coop I sighted a new-to-me bird.  After using my handy dandy app (Merlin Bird ID) I figured out it was this:

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Isn’t it so cute?  There were about five of them in the same area of the lawn, busily eating lovely wildflowers which had gone to seed.

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The design of it’s back feathers (wings) is so pretty.  And I love the touch of yellow.

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I was on my stomach in the cool green grass as I watched them.

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The hens are usually fenced in but I let them free range yesterday afternoon, which they obviously enjoyed.  It made me nervous the rest of the day for fear something would attack them.  We watched them well and they stayed safe and a had nice couple of hours scratching the ground and eating whatever they could find that looked tasty.

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“Mom, come and see how I get on this all by myself!”

noooooooo thanks darling!!!

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Chipmunk down by the stream….what a nice place to live; water, rock ledges, holes, acorns abundant, and tunnels, all so convenient.

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It’s a great time of year to go bird watching what with the beauty of the trees, good smells of autumn, and busy little birds trying to fill up their tummies.

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black spotted back.

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fresh running water….a haven for birds and animals.

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Sarah’s final selection…..the pop of bright blue flowers makes it special.

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It is thick and warm for the upcoming winter months.  Inside the coat there are drawstrings to tighten the waist, and she selected adorable little gloves to match.

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She couldn’t wait to take it off….goodbye coat, see you when the snow flies!